Facebook + FarmVille = ??

IB Publisher Jody Glynn Patrick writes about business for her column, with a departure to “no business allowed” in her blog “After Hours”. Even the print magazine’s parameters are loose for Jody, as she writes from the heart and typically more toward HR or human interest topics.

I finally discovered the value of Facebook: FarmVille. My radio partner, Joan Gillman, started playing the interactive online game powered through Facebook (where you get your “neighbors”) when she was in Croatia. A Polish woman got her hooked. Joan came back and told me all about it. “You should try it,” Joan said. “It’s fun. And I need neighbors.”

I said, “That’s silly. I don’t have time to play an avatar game.” And I meant it. But the least I could do was sign up to be her neighbor to humor her a little. I mean, no harm in that.

She sent me a cow from her farm. Then a chicken.

My sister-in-law sent me a picket fence.
Then my brother sent me a tree.

An old high school friend sent me a chicken. Another friend gifted me a calf.

Joan sent me a duck. My brother sent me another cow.

Hmm. Couple of ducks, three brown bulls, four running hares … I could see where a few more picket fence sections could come in handy. Only a few pretend coins (or an option to buy coin credits with real cash)… But no. I don’t have an addictive personality or time to waste. I never fell into the BINGO traps and I wasn’t about to pay real cash for fake crops, either, on FarmVille.

I, after all, have a life. A full, busy life.

But what would the harm be of planting a few crops, since FarmVille gave me some coins to play with and six plots to plow. Just to see why Joan would spend any time at all doing it.

That was two farms ago. I’m working toward a plantation now. I paid $16 in FarmVille cash (I still refuse to spend real money of my own) for an Irish flag, and I have four dairy barns, a chicken coop, lots of critters, a pond, an outhouse, a covered wagon … and I should be to Level 35 sooner rather than later.

My Facebook community has no doubt turned my setting to “IGNORE” on their home pages while I go through this phase, but that’s okay. I have about 10 new friends on Facebook from the FarmVille community (four in Poland), and they tend my crops and feed my chickens when I’m not offline.

You find out who your true friends are when you run a plantation, that’s for sure. Your true pals help you with that barn raising (hint, hint). They gift you horses for a horse farm.

I’m glad I’m not addicted to it or anything. That would be bad. I sometimes forget to eat dinner now, but that fits in with my weight loss goals, and it’s not like I’m getting up at 2 a.m. to harvest a crop, like a fanatic would do. No, I plan my harvests to come due between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. so that I don’t have to worry about wilt after I go to bed.

My staff is playing FarmVille, too. We’re using it as a team-building tool. Everyone was challenged to get to Level 10. The game is centered on helping one another and alliances within your farming community, and you’d be surprised how much of a morale booster it is. They still have to get their jobs done — deadlines don’t wait, and quality is our number one priority — so I see them online with me at 6 a.m. or at night or at noontime.

Some staff adopted fake online personalities and photos so their friends wouldn’t know they are playing FarmVille. So if you’re on my Facebook account and notice that some of my friends look like they just got out of prison, well, chances are that they are IB staffers.

Collectively, we are now among the 11 million users who play FarmVille online daily.

FarmVille collected almost $1 million in a week to send to victims in Haiti through the “buy white corn with real $$ and we’ll donate all the money to Haiti” campaign. It’s fake corn, real money, real contributions made.

What’s the point? I’m still trying to figure it out. But Farmer Jessica over here (at IB) is competitive AND cooperative; she gifts animals to other staffers while kicking their butts with her strategy to rise to higher levels. Either it’s a good strategy or she’s online later at night and earlier in the morning than most folks. Which is what real farmers have to do.

Either way, I have Joan Gillman to thank, and I do thank her. And her Polish friend? She’s my newest neighbor on FarmVille.

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